The Santa Fe Reunion info courtesy John Dixon and Harold Weller
This seven piece soul & jazz rock band was formed circa 1968, from the basis of Tick Tocks Tactics.
Lead & Rhythm guitar & Musical arranger
Alto & Baritone Saxophone
Lead Guitar (replaced RA)
SFR early 1969
The Band was managed jointly by Stuart Kay and Stuart Williamson.
Both Stuart's were a great support to the band.
A mention too for Bill Leyland (of L.E. Agency)
one of our main booking agents.
Cromwellian - image courtesy Melvin Booth
John at the front, Roger (sax) left rear, Melvin (sax) middle and Tony (trumpet) on the right with the very pretty dancers taking centre stage
An almost released single LOVING MY BABY BACK HOME was written by TONY HILLER song writer with Decca who the group were signed to.
Tony Hiller later discovered Brotherhood of Man and wrote their Top Hits.
The band worked regularly at such venues as: -
- The Seven Stars - Heywood
- Bolton Palais
- The Cromwellian
- Bolton Casino
- Wigan Casino
- Hindley Monaco
- The Pink Elephant Club
- Rivington Barn - Horwich
- The Top Hat Club - Stoke
- Bredbury Hall
- Liverpool Cavern - Mathew Street
- Farnworth Monaco
- Windsford Civic Hall
- The Princes Club - Chorlton
- The Domino Club - Failsworth
- The Georgian Club - Salford
- Pocoapoco - Stockport
- Belle Vue - Manchester
- Colne Minors Club
- Wigan Sportsmans Club
- Salford Rugby Club (The Willows)
- Sale Rugby Club
- Many many more - I just cant recall!!
Remember Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band?
The band did a little work with Geno Washington in the 60s although never made Ram Jam Band status or featured on any of Geno's recordings. Roy's arrangement of Michael (the Lover) was a fantastic version jointly sung by Geno & John. Many considered it to be an improved version of the original chart hit and more to the point, Geno loved it!
The band did some recording at Strawberry Studio's in Stockport - produced by Eric Stewart (ex-Mindbenders, Hotleggs and later 10cc). They also laid-down tracks at DECCA Recording Studio's London and EMI London.
They performed in front of Don Black - London hoping for that "Big Break" but it never came and the band slowly dissolved in the early 70s - Sunk without a trace until John was contacted by Paul Mlynarz ex-Phoenix City Smash and DJ Dave Eager in December 2003 who pointed him in the direction of the manchesterbeat.com website and suggested that others may be interested The Santa Fe Reunion history.
It would be wrong not give a mention to Ernie Bench. Ernie was the Manager & Road Manager of Tic Toc Tactics Soul Band. Harold Weller and Tony Kay were in that band and John Dixon used to be the Friday night stand-in drummer. It was during this "Dep" work that Ernie & the guys spotted John's talents as a singer. They subsequently asked him to join the band. John enquired as to whether Tony was leaving - they said "No - we want you to front the band" John gulped at this point - the rest is history. Ernie went on to establish a successful coach transport business (much more secure than managing a soul band). Sadly Ernie died several years ago....
Soul nights at the barn were just as 'hot' as Wigan Casino. We used to strap the PA speakers onto the ancient roof beams and make them shake and finger pop!! (this cleared the dust from the rafters).
We will never forget New Years Eve 1969 - the end of the 60s decade. We were asked to welcome the 70s in and play over the midnight slot. John asked that all the musicians who wanted to (from the other bands playing that night) be allowed to join The Santa Fe Reunion for a monster jam over the midnight chimes - we chose Shake WOW!!! BIGGEST Brass section ever - the sound was nothing short of STAX!!
When we were booked for this gig in 1969 we decided to put together a medley of Beatle numbers. We worked hard to represent each Lennon & McCartney song with respect and make it as close to the originals as possible. The night was going well and the soul numbers were well appreciated - we then spliced in our Beatle medley. To our surprise the audience didn't want to hear their music - the feeling was, we found out later, that the Beatles had left Liverpool and the audience didn't want to be reminded of them. We finished the medley (we had & have great respect for the Beatles). Once back into the soul songs the audience picked-up and a great night was had by all.
We were shocked by the state of the club itself. The walls ran with sweat and it took more than one wash to get the smell of the Cavern off our clothes.
The people of Liverpool were great though and we were grateful for their warm welcome for us - a Manchester Band!
The Princess / Domino & Georgian Clubs
Owned by the Moss Bros. these three clubs in Chorlton, Failsworth & Salford, were a chance for The Santa Fe Reunion to move into cabaret. Our act changed as, in the main, the audience was seated during our performance. As well as performing our powerful soul songs such as Shake, Can't turn you loose, I Feel Good, Papa's got a brand new bag etc.. we moved into jazz rock songs by Chicago (Does anybody really know what time it is?) and the standard Stormy Weather as well as My Girl, When a man loves a woman & Tramp!. We used to swap instruments.
John would play drums or Alto / Tenor Saxophone and the guys would swap instruments and take a turn at lead vocal. We learned a great deal about entertaining as opposed to just performing music at these clubs. We would often do the three clubs in one night. This type of working was very tiring, as well as performing it trebled the set-up & pack-up effort.
Sunday nights at the Casino were dedicated to Soul! The Casino is still there on the corner of Crompton Way - it is now a supermarket.
The Seven Stars - Heywood
One of our most favorite gigs. We once worked every night for two weeks. The place used to ROCK! It was great for us to just turn up and play - the gear already being set-up for a week at a time - heaven!! The landlord (Denis) and his wife & family were good to us and a pleasure to work for - we had some great times. We felt it providence that the venue was called The Seven Stars and there were seven of us (dream-on Johnboy!!!).
SFR 1970 with Bernie Southern on lead ( replacing Roy Allen)
John Dixon off stage in this pic
Hadge Weller Bass, Denis Ashton Drums
When we now think of Wigan Casino we often remember it through Northern Soul with DJ's such as Tony Blackburn and Richard Searling & others. The fact is there was Soul Nights here well before the DJ's took over the venue in the 70s. It was the live bands of the 60s that originally established this as a Mecca of Soul.
Such bands as: J. J. Jackson, The Harlem John Reshuffle, The Santa Fe Reunion, Bill Shakespear and many more, regularly attracted large crowds for their soul nights. John made his microphone lead so long that it stretched from the PA (Public Address Amplifier) on stage - to a point in the middle of the dance floor at the Casino. He used to mingle among the audience, dance & sing to, for and with them for some of the songs. The crowd used to love it and used to open up a circle in which he danced, gyrated and sang to them - fantastic nights! Just fantastic!!!
John will always be grateful for the DJ's for continuing and expanding this - now legendary Soul Venue and for keeping the memory 'alive' in our hearts. He does, however, feel sad that many of the live musicians of the 60s rarely - if ever - are mentioned by the DJ's.
Neanderthal Man reached the No.1 slot in the late 60s. We were all sat in Strawberry Studio's having a coffee-break after doing some recording and Eric Stewart played us a couple of tracks that he had been working on, asking for our opinion of which track we liked best. We all agreed on a track and he said that he too liked that track best, however, the Recording Studio was going to put the other track as the "A" side, which they subsequently did and Neanderthal Man climbed to No.1 in the UK charts.
Special Event: -
Poporama - Bellevue Manchester circa 1969
This was one of the bigest Pop Group Contest ever to be held in the North West.
The show was compered by:- Tony Blackburn, Stuart Henry and Dave Eager
The Preliminary Judges were:- Greg Edwards, Ralph Elphinstone, Steve Handson, Peter Hearn and John Lewis
The Final Judges were:- Graham Gouldman - Kassanatz Katz (later 10cc of course) Johnny Hamp - Granada TV John Wilcox - BBC Ian Mean - Daily Mail Phil Moss - Mecca
The Groups were - in order of appearance
The Ephemeral Blues Band - The Big Herm and the Rock Cats - 3's Company - The Trek - Twilight Zone -
Elmers Tune - The Misty Soul - The Hereward - The Passion Waggon - Tighmes - Vision Pop - The Chariots -
The Romany Rye - The Contrast - The Pink Engine - Avenue Lane - The Spring - Staircase
The Green River - The Spyro Gyro - The Starlight Show Group - The Santa Fe Reunion - The Outsiders -
The programme cost a whopping 2shillings and 6pence (2'6d)
The first heat was won outright by The Santa Fe Reunion with The Chariots second and The Spyro Gyro third.
The final heat saw the winners as The Chariots with The Spyro Gyro second and The Santa Fe Reunion third.
Hey man! We all had a groovy time so what the hell!!
Footnote - from John
Thank you so much for the opportunity to present this history of The Santa Fe Reunion on your great website.
I hope that your readers will be as entertained as I have been re-living these memories. It was a great time for live music and I am pleased that I was involved - albeit in a small way.
On Thursday / Friday and Saturday nights we would pass many bands, just like us, zooming off to their gig.
Their band names either plastered on the side of the van or on a big card in the front and back window (usually the sign of a borrowed van).
Such names as Pink Engine, The Phoenix City Smash, Harlem John Reshuffle, The Cortinas, The Chariots - so many that I simply cannot recall them all. It is a great pity that we did not have the M60 in those days, travel was slow on those old roads. We started life in an old converted ambulance (that was Ernie's - he drove the fastest converted ambulance in the North West, and much better than a Milk Float!).
We then bought a Blue Bedford Long-Wheelbase and finaly ended up in a big orange Commer "walk-through" (which used to belong to the Manchester group Orange). It had been fitted out with four double bus seats and a single drivers seat for Alan ??? (our Roadie). It had been completely sealed from the rear equipment area in order to prevent flying guitar cases hitting us in the back of the head when the brakes were applied hard. This was a common injury in the 60s.
I am so sorry that I am unable to remember everybody's name. I hope that this article will jog memories and that you will remind me of those things I have forgotten.
John also worked in The Atoms as a drummer during the early 60s with James Johnson- lead guitar, Adrian Howard - rythm guitar and Malcome Howard bass guitar.
John also worked as a drummer & vocals in The Soundcaster Sect - A Blues Band with Tom Morgan lead & rythm guitar & vocals and Barry Holden bass guitar & vocals.
John also worked as a "Dep" drummer in Tic Toc Tactics Soul Band.
John is now a working Fitness Proffessional. He is a fully qualified Pilates and Aerobics teacher (aerobic sessions are where John still sings many of the 60s soul songs that he used to sing while in the bands) and at 54 is still going strong!
Photograph taken in 1966 at the Apprentice Training School , AEI-GEC Power Engineering in Trafford Park, Manchester
Mike Toop (Tangerine) is on the front row far right at the end.
John Dixon (The Santa Fe Reunion) is on the middle row 5th from the left
(with the mod cut and the tie).
Came across this photo taken 2010. First time I`d seen John Dixon for 40 years and Mev Booth since early 70`s.
Left to right - Hadge, John and Mev.
LOL!! found this photo of
Roger Bridge - Tennor Sax (on left)
John Dixon - Singer (middle) and
Tony Kay - Trumpet (on right).
We were used as models for the clothes. You can just see the bass drum in the background bearing the "Santa Fe Reunion" name. We couldn't afford the clothing and we didn't even get to keep any of it (story of my life).
Just checked the mirror and BLOODY HELL - WHERE HAS MY HAIR GONE !!! AND WHY IS WHAT'S LEFT WHITE??? LOL!!!
Hope you can find a place for this gem... Cheers mate...
SFR ,Together again 2016
The band performing on Stage, Saturday 24th Sept. 2016
It was our Drummer Denis`s 70th Birthday this month. And what better way to honour our dear Mate than to re-unite the Band for this very special occasion .
This was no easy task as some of us now live in different areas of the UK. I`m pleased to say we are all `still alive and kicking` ( just...lol ) and after limited rehearsal time , we performed on the same stage for the first time in an amazing FORTY SIX years...... To play our Chicago / Blood Sweat and Tears arrangements was expecting too much within a limited time.
We settled on a set list of standard Soul Classics which is what we did when formed back in 1968. Only myself ( Bass ) and fellow Lead Guitarist are still Gigging on a regular basis.
It was a wonderful and very emotional experience for us all to play again, and before an Audience of around 200 people. Some of us have met up a couple of times a year for a drink and a laugh over old times. But this is the very first time we have all been under the same roof since 1970......God willing, we have all agreed to do it again sometime.
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